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Junior soccer players from Sierra Leone disappear after playing tournament in Spain

When it was time to go home, two 14-year-olds escaped through a window and have yet to be found

Players from the Sierra Leone soccer team.Players from the Sierra Leone soccer team. JAVIER HERNÁNDEZ
 

Spanish authorities are looking for two 14-year-olds from Sierra Leone who disappeared after competing in a junior soccer competition in the Basque city of San Sebastián. The two had traveled to the northern city in early July to compete in the 28th Donosti Cup as members of the Diamond Child soccer team from Sierra Leone.

All our effort is on finding them as soon as possible - ANTHONY SEYDU, LEGAL GUARDIAN OF THE TEENAGERS

But on July 13, when it came time to fly back to Freetown, they escaped through a window in the middle of the night and disappeared. The minors, who have no money or contacts in the region, have not been seen since, according to the security department of the Basque regional government.

Anthony Seydu, the president of the NGO Diamond Child School of Arts and Culture and the legal guardian of the minors, reported them missing to the Basque police force, the Ertzaintza, just hours after they went missing. Seydu explained that the two fled last Saturday between 2am and 6am: “We realized that two boys were missing. They had escaped through the window of the residential center [where they were staying during the tournament].”

Seydu identified the two missing players as Alimamy K. and Momodu I.S., explaining they were sharing a room with three other players when they fled. “They were sleeping and didn’t hear anything,” he said.

The sad part of this experience is that two of the boys, soccer players, minors, escaped in the early hours of Saturday morning before their flight to Freetown. They jumped out of the window of the residency where they were staying for the Donosti Cup.

We are worried about their whereabouts. We have shared a photo of them in case anyone sees them and can help us find them. Their names are: Momodu Sesay Inonnson, Alimamy Kanu. We ask for respect in this delicate matter and any message to be sent privately. Thank you.

"We don’t know their whereabouts [...] We know that they don't have any contacts in Spain. They are young boys who have been part of our school for many years, and we have seen them grow. We weren’t expecting this to happen,” he added.

The Diamond Child soccer team from Sierra Leone had traveled to San Sebastián thanks to the Gipuzkoa provincial parliament, which approved €4,000 in funding last April to bring the team, plus two others – the Israeli team Al-Bustan and Palestine’s Not to Forget Jenin – to the city for the competition.

The minors, who have no money or contacts, have not been seen since July 13

The Donosti Cup is the largest international junior soccer tournament in Spain, and the fifth largest in Europe. This year, 7,500 soccer players, aged between 11 and 18, from 27 countries took part in the competition. The Donosti Cup Foundation has a tradition of inviting teams from developing countries. Four years ago, boys from an orphanage in Mozambique were asked to take part; in 2017, the Dragones de Lavapiés from Madrid competed, and this year, a team from Sierra Leone and a girl team from Palestine participated.

The Diamond Child soccer side made it to the final of the tournament, but were beaten by the Catalan side Atlètic Segre CA.

The Spanish embassy helped the Diamond Child soccer team get visas so they could compete in the Donosti Cup. Seydu said he is worried the disappearance of the two minors will jeopardize future trips to Spain.  “I think they [Alimamy K. and Momodu I.S] used this situation very poorly. Now we will not be able to offer this possibility to other children in Sierra Leone,” he said.

The police and the NGO are in contact with the minors’ families in Sierra Leone in case the two reach out to their relatives and provide some clue as to their whereabouts. Seydu believes Alimamy K. and Momodu I.S. decided to escape because they “have the perspective that everything is easy in the West.”

“They are not aware that, if you escape, you will soon find yourself on the street, you don’t know anybody, not even the language, and you will end up sleeping on the street. That is what worries me,” he explained. “Now the weather is good, it’s sunny. But winter will begin soon and it will be harder for them. All our effort is on finding them as soon as possible.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.
Source: https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/07/18/inenglish/1563442929_306513.html

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